The ruins of Roche Abbey

Following the fails of the week we was still hungry, so me monkey got an x78 to Rotherham, then a no 10 to Maltby and then a 3 mile walk.. A walk round the outside, then through the woods and the images we wanted meant we had to think out of the box, so at closeting time we had the place to ourself s, on our way back out 20 pounds was posted in the house now office and where you pay to have a walk round, we left Roche Abbey and being so close no doubt we shall have another wonder.


The ruins of Roche Abbey lie in the wooded valley of the Maltby Beck, about 9 miles from Doncaster and 13 miles from Sheffield in South Yorkshire. Now only a small part of the eastern end of the abbey church remains standing to any height. But this was once a splendid twelfth-century church, one of the earliest built in the ‘New Gothic’ style in northern England. Roche was founded in 1147 and building began on the stone church in about 1170. Although never a large or wealthy abbey, Roche built up a moderate collection of land-holdings during the twelfth and thirteenth century and played a significant part in the history of the region in the later middle ages. Like other monastic houses, Roche was suppressed in the reign of Henry VIII, the monks dispersed and the abbey buildings destroyed. On the pages that follow you can read about the abbey’s history, lands and buildings and go on a tour of the models we have built of the church and the monastic precincts.

The history of Roche Abbey, Yorkshire, expands from the foundation of the house in 1147 until its dissolution in 1538. Roche is today one of the less well-known Cistercian abbeys and there are no exceptional personalities associated with the community yet, as the following screens show, the abbey played an integral role in matters relating to the Order as well as the locality, and both participated in and was affected by national affairs.

Roche was a joint foundation by Richard de Busli, lord of Maltby, and Richard FitzTurgis, lord of Hooten, and was in this respect rather unusual. Otherwise, the abbey’s development was in many ways similar to that of other Cistercian abbeys in the county – a period of growth and consolidation with its highs and lows was followed by a gradual decline.

Little remains of the buildings at Roche and there are few surviving documentary sources. Aerial photography of the site, however, reveals an almost complete outline of the precinct, and a remarkable account of the spoliation of the abbey in the sixteenth century provides a vivid insight to the fate of the abbey after the Dissolution.

The Cistercians sought to live simply by the fruits of their own labour; each abbey thus required a variety of possessions, such as arable and pastoral land, woodland, mills and fisheries, to sustain a self-sufficient community. At its foundation every house was endowed with the resources necessary to establish monastic life, and thereafter the abbey acquired additional lands and rights to support the growth of the community. Roche was a moderately-sized house and never had extensive holdings. As can be seen from the map, below, the abbey’s holdings stretched across the five counties of Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, Lincolnshire and Lancashire. For a short while the community had one outlying property at Rottingdean, Sussex (see right). Most of Roche’s possessions were concentrated within a fifteen-mile radius of the abbey, and a number of these lay within five miles of the house.

Whilst there is not a complete record of the abbey’s holdings, from charters and, more importantly, papal and royal confirmations of Roche’s possessions, there is not compile a list of most places where the community held lands at some point during their four-hundred year history. Some of the places mentioned in the deeds no longer exist and whilst several of these can be located, others, such as ‘Innesby’ and ‘Ennus’ / ‘Ernuse’ cannot be identified.

Onto some images then:

History from here

Model of the complex at Roche

The abbey church at Roche

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